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Dez Parkes, tastemaking London soul and rare groove DJ, has died

In addition to reigniting the rare groove revival with a beloved late-'80s compilation series, Parkes was also known for his deep knowledge of music with a rumoured 50,000+ collection to back it up

Dez Parkes, tastemaking London soul and rare groove DJ, has died

London record collector, compiler and DJ Dez Parkes has died.

Fitzroy Facey, co-founder of The Soul Survivors magazine, shared the news to Facebook last Friday, 11th November. "It is with our deepest sorrow that we inform you of the death of our beloved friend the legendary Dez Parkes, our brother in music who sadly passed away today," Fitzroy wrote. "The family are still processing this massive loss so please respect their privacy at this sad time." No cause of death was given and his age is unconfirmed.

Parkes was known for his deep knowledge of music with a rumoured 50,000+ collection to back it up; The Soul Survivors called him "Mr. Musicology" in a 2008 cover feature. He came up in the early 1970s London scene dancing and DJing with the Unknown Kwantity crew at Whisky A Go Go (AKA The Wag), The Maze (AKA Upstairs at Ronnie Scott's), Crackers and Birds Nest. In the '80s, he founded underground boogie venue Spats Oxford Street with Trevor Shakes and held a residency there. 

In the late '80s, Parkes was approached by RCA Records to compile a rare groove series, launching 1987's 'Rare (A Rare Collection Of Grooves)', credited with reigniting widespread interest in rare groove. He later compiled 'Motown Rare Grooves', 'Prelude One', 'The Best of Pleasure', 'Best Of Pucho & The Latin Soul Brothers' and 'Classic Rare Groove' for RCA, Ace and Mastercuts.

Parkes could also be heard on UK pirate radio during its heyday, working on stations like WBLS, Dance FM and Laser. It's around this time he founded T.U.F. (The Underground Family) Enterprises label with Bess Mobsby and R.S. Digital, putting out music by Diana Brown & The Brothers, AKA The Brand New Heavies. He was also known for friendships with legends like Leroy Burgess, Bill Curtis and Roy Ayers, as well as for DJing private parties for Prince and Chaka Khan. 

Listen back to an interview between Parkes and DJ Freestyle on Feferity Radio from 2020, and read tributes to Parkes from social media below. 

Photo credit: Facebook